HANNAH HÖCH (1889-1978)
HANNAH HÖCH (1889-1978)
HANNAH HÖCH (1889-1978)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE GERMAN COLLECTION
HANNAH HÖCH (1889-1978)

Der Jahresablauf

Details
HANNAH HÖCH (1889-1978)
Der Jahresablauf
signed with initials 'H. H.' (lower right); signed and dated 'HANNAH HÖCH - 1938' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
25 3/8 x 30 ¾ in. (64.5 x 78.3 cm.)
Painted in 1939
Provenance
The artist's estate.
By descent to the present owners.
Literature
E. Maurer, Hannah Höch, Jenseits fester Grenzen Das malerische Werk bis 1945, Berlin, 1995, no. 78, p. 261 (illustrated).
C. Schweitzer, Schrankenlose Freiheit für Hannah Höch, Das Leben einer Künstlerin 1889-1978, Berlin, 2011, p. 283-5, no. 26 (illustrated p. 284).
Exhibited
Gelsenkrichen, Städtisches Museum, Kunstsammlung, Hannah Höch. Ein Leben mit der Pflanze, May - June 1978, no. 7 (dated '1938').
Berlin, Rathaus Reinickendorf, Hannah Höch, October - December 1989, no. 10 (dated '1938').
Gotha, Museen der Stadt Gotha, Hannah Höch, Gotha 1889 - 1978 Berlin, August - November 1993, no. 115, pl. 157 (dated '1938').
Hamburg, Galerie und Verlag St. Gertrude, Hannah Höch, April - June 2017, no. 1 (illustrated on front & inside cover; dated '1938').
Apolda, Kunsthaus Apolda Avantgarde, Hannah Höch, Flora Vitalis, July - September 2017, no. K 62, p. 143 (illustrated p. 82; dated '1938').
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.
Further details
We are grateful to Dr Ralf Burmeister and to Dr Ellen Maurer for their assistance in cataloguing this work.
Sale room notice
Please note the correct date for this work is 1939, and not as stated in the printed gallery guide.

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Lot Essay

Though filled with a rich array of colours and bright blooms, Hannah Höch’s enigmatic composition Der Jahresablauf emerged in the midst of a period of great upheaval and turmoil for the artist. For much of the 1930s, she had been unable to show her work publicly in Germany due to the restrictive cultural policies of the National Socialist party, and in 1937 she was among the group of avant-garde artists vilified as ‘cultural bolshevists’ in Wolfgang Willrich’s publication Säuberung des Kunsttempels (The Cleansing of the Temple of Art), which would provide the framework for the notorious Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition later that year. To avoid persecution, the artist moved from central Berlin to the quiet rural suburb of Heiligensee, where her past affiliations remained unknown to her neighbours. Here, Höch entered a period of artistic and social isolation, keeping her rich archive of DADA ephemera and artworks hidden in her house, all the while continuing to paint and create photomontages under the radar of the authorities. ‘I often wonder how I managed to survive that dreadful reign of terror,’ she later said. ‘When I now look back, I’m surprised by my own courage or irresponsibility in preserving in my home all the “subversive” Dada art and literature… But it never occurred to me, until it was all over, that I could still be considered a dangerous revolutionary…’ (quoted in E. Roditi, Dialogues: Conversations with European Artists at Mid-Century, San Francisco, 1990, p. 74).
Painted between 1938 and 1939, Der Jahresablauf examines the universal and timeless theme of the cycle of life, a subject which greatly intrigued the artist at this time and informed another of her compositions from the same year, Der Berg (1939; Private Collection). In both paintings, Höch uses a unique play of symbolism to examine profound questions about the human experience, tracing the progress of a series of small figures as they voyage through a fantastical landscape. While Der Berg uses the steep ascent of a mountain as a metaphor for the various pathways and routes that are possible in life, in Der Jahresablauf the artist explores the passage of time by linking the changing seasons with different stages of life. Here, a winding path meanders diagonally across the canvas in a great sweeping S-curve, wrapping its way around what appears to be a perfectly still body of water, its glass-like surface catching the light of an unseen sky, slowly shifting from cool grey tones to soft yellows, lavenders and peachy pinks. Along the pathway, a rich cluster of flowers and plant life flourish, their colourful forms and large, oversized blooms jostling for space along the route.
Wandering among the lush botany, a small child, a couple and an old woman are seen at different points along the path, portraying a general chapter in life – from childhood, through maturity and adulthood, and onto old age. Similarly, the flora follows the progression of time along the pathway, the individual species reflecting the transition of the seasons through the year. Beginning in the lower right hand corner of the canvas, the landscape offers a plethora of early spring flowers, from hardy snowdrops and elegant lilies of the valley, to cherry blossoms, willow catkins and daffodils, each a symbol of new life, growth and the promise of the year ahead. As the path progresses, these transition into richly hued summer blooms, including poppies, lilies and asters, which in turn gradually give way to trees laden with fruit and autumnal foliage. Though the path disappears as it continues around to the far edge of the lake, at the right edge of the picture the annual cycle is brought to a close with Christmas roses and a snow-covered fir forest standing amongst an otherwise sparse section of land. The cyclical nature of the pathway, turning back on itself in a never-ending loop, speaks not only to the continuous rhythms of the natural world, but also suggests a similarly sure pattern for life itself, with recognisable landmarks, developments and ‘seasons.’
Across the composition, Höch’s carefully detailed depictions of each of the different plants attest to her life-long passion for flowers and botany, and were likely based on the numerous sketches and studies the artist made during her travels with Kurt Matthies between 1936 and 1940. Having said this, the flora and fauna are captured with an almost cartoon-like whimsy – as Cara Schweitzer has noted, the ‘mushrooms, deer and snow-covered fir trees could have sprung from one of the early animated films of Walt Disney or the imagery of the children’s book illustrator Ida Bohatta’ (Schrankenlose Freiheit für Hannah Höch: Das Leben einer Künstlerin, 1889-1978, Berlin, 2011, p. 285). By deliberately employing this familiar, semi-kitsch visual language, Höch undercuts the profound, philosophical subject matter of Der Jahresablauf, creating an intriguing juxtaposition at the very heart of the composition.

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